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Health ordinance committee races toward April ballot

Health ordinance committee races toward April ballot

January 18th, 2018 by Helen Wilbers in News

Attendees of a previous Missouri Air Conservation Commission meeting listen during the public comment period. Many members of the public offered opinions about a proposition to expand the odor rule to cover all CAFOs.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /News Tribune.

As the April ballot approaches, the four remaining members of Callaway County's health ordinance committee hope to finish working through the proposed county ordinance addressing confined animal feeding operations.

"I think we just get through this, write a recommendation, send it to commissioners and it's out of our hands," moderator Rick Hess said.

Hess, along with committee members Leo Patrick Smith, Ashley Varner, Jeff Jones and Robert Pierce, attended Wednesday evening's committee meeting. The Callaway County Commission has not issued an official word about the committee's fate following the resignation of three members.

The next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 either at the Callaway County Health Department meeting room or the Callaway Electric Cooperative.

Remaining members expressed eagerness to progress through the ordinance. Hess announced his retirement as Holts Summit's city administrator is April 30 and said he hopes the committee's task will be finished before then.

Smith said he had a table at home piled with documents related to the proposed ordinance.

"My wife says, 'When are you going to remove that table from here?'" he said. "I hope it's soon."

Committee members reviewed and edited much of Section 5, which details rules with which a proposed CAFO must comply before being issued a county health permit. Edits focused on addressing redundancies in the bill's wording. Committee members also clarified vague language.

For example, the draft of Section 5.2 states, "Any odor eliminated must be diluted to non-detectable limits."

Varner and other committee members questioned what "non-detectable" means and at what distance odors would be measured.

"You're always going to have a smell," Hess said.

Members, especially Smith, will also review the air quality guidelines set out in Section 5.15, which define maximum allowable concentrations of certain gases. Members were unsure what research backed the proposed numbers.

"We need time to look at the science behind this and the health effects," Smith said.

The committee also needs to review and merge several addenda with the ordinance, including one that would create a three-person "CAFO Review Commission."

In response to an audience question, committee members said they'll try to find a way to make updated versions of the proposed ordinance — including addenda — publicly available. Hess said they may be posted to the Callaway County Health Department's website.

"It's a transparency issue," Smith said.

If approved, the ordinance would apply to new confined animal feeding operations with a specified density of animals: 1,000 or more animal units at 150 or more per acre.

The ordinance would establish setbacks to keep CAFOs and waste products a certain distance from populated areas, water and recreational facilities. It also introduces a variety of other safety measures to keep diseases from spreading to people. Additionally, it requires information about land on which waste is being spread to be documented and submitted to the county recorder.

An April draft of the ordinance can be viewed at bit.ly/2qYuK7d.